Word Count: 3,700
Notes: Incorporates part of Lord of the Bling and other episodes (*cough* Return of the Kane *cough*) I couldn't fit into the last one, but the bulk of it's from Mars vs. Mars! I'd also like to take the opportunity to thank my little band of loyal readers (quality over quantity!) for their awesome support and maybe ask whether or not I should go do some that I've missed... For instance, An Echolls Family Christmas? Suggestions would be greatly helpful (and in my case, rather necessary!)
Guess there’s trouble even in paradise. Former soap-opera star Lynn Lester apparently jumped off the Coronado Bridge, leaving behind a suicide note on her Blackberry. Talk about post-modern. She'd also abandoned a brand-new convertible, which was somewhat strange. Why'd she even buy the damn thing in the first place? So where'd I learn this from? Not her daughter, that's for sure. Let's just say... we aren’t exactly phone buddies anymore. In fact, she hadn’t been at school since it happened. Which is why I’m more than a little surprised to see her on my porch the night of her mom’s funeral reception. She looks me in the eye and goes, “I want you to find my mother.” The only thing I can come up with is dragging the lake, which I certainly wasn’t going to say aloud. Veronica must have seen it on my face. “She didn’t kill herself, Logan. And she’s not dead.” I tell her to come in (she didn’t need to take flak over being here on top of being crazy) and ask her what proof she had that Lynn was still alive. There’s an eyewitness that’s been on practically every channel you look. She steps in and shivers delicately (it was kinda cold outside). “Well if she’s on television, she MUST be telling the truth. But her credit cards was missing. Doesn’t that seem like... I don’t know, a clue? Contrary to popular opinion, AmEx isn’t accepted in the afterlife!” I point out the digital confession and she rolls her eyes at me. “That’s so other people will believe she’s gone, duh! But if she was really planning on... you know, she'd simply OD on sleeping pills. That’s what I would have done.” She takes a deep breath. “That’s what she said she’d do.” She turns to leave, then stops. “I need to make sure she’s alright. Okay, Logan?” Out of all the people in the world, who could imagine that I’d actually end up feeling sorry for Veronica Echolls?
I turn on my TV and catch part of the eyewitness’s interview, when it gets interrupted by a special bulletin. “The Lilly Kane murder case took an unexpected turn this morning as convicted killer Abel Koontz fired his public appointed legal counsel. Forfeiting further appeals, the defendant is scheduled to die by lethal injection as early as next year.” My dad walks in on the tail end of it. He yawns, “I couldn’t sleep. What was that all about?” I bring him up to speed and inquire about his opinion on the matter. He gives me a shrug and mutters, “Guess he’s ready to die.” I ask him what he’s going to do about it, considering that he doesn’t believe the guy’s guilty and all. He just smirks at me. “I hate to break it you pal, but nobody in Neptune cares what I believe in. They didn’t care when I was Sheriff, and they sure as hell don’t care now. This town’s gonna hafta find another conspiracy nut.” I tell him goodnight and head off for bed.
Lilly comes up behind me and wraps her arms around my shoulders. She purrs into my ear, “You’re such a badass now. And you know how much that turns me on, Logan.” She checks me out while licking her lips approvingly. “We’d totally be hooking up... If I wasn’t you know, dead and stuff.” I retort, “And whose fault is that? I’M not the one who left. I’M not the one who betrayed you. What are you doing here, anyways?” She grins michevously at me. "Remember all those horror movies we watched? My soul is doomed to walk the earth until justice has been served." I raise an eyebrow. "Really." She rolls her eyes in response. "And as kind kind of a side project, I'm fodder for your perverted fantasies." That I can get on board with. We're about to make out when I suddenly remember something and pull back. "Did Koontz do it?" She shrugs innocently. "Wish I could tell you." I go, "There's no apparent motive. Why would he have wanted to kill you?" She laughs in my face. "I was young, beautiful and fabulous. Maybe he was one of my other lovers. Maybe he murdered me in a jealous rage." I tighten my grip on her. "I loved you, Lilly. But that wasn't enough for you. So why won't you leave me alone?" She gives me a heartbreaking smile. "Because I miss you."
I wake up and jump out of bed. If Lilly's ghost is going to haunt me until she's avenged, then I'd better get my ass in gear. I boot up my laptop and go over the individual files. Let's start with the obvious. Abel Koontz was found with Lilly's backpack and shoes in his possession. He gave a confession on the spot. But Dad was convinced that the mystery led back to the most respected family in Neptune... the three people that were at the scene of the crime before he arrived. Jake Kane, beloved billionaire. Celeste Kane, renowned philanthropist. And their son, Duncan. Each of the Kanes' alibis was airtight. That is, until a traffic ticket proved that Lilly was still alive hours after the coroner's official time of death. I honestly don't know what I'm looking for. But if there are any clues as to who really killed Lilly, then they're in Dad's safe. I flip though the arrest record, evidence log, autopsy report. How many times do I have to look at this stuff? Until it starts making sense. Which is leaning more and more towards never.
Daylight's breaking and I've gone through everything several times over when a flash of white catches my eye. Just my luck, Dad's alarm goes off at that exact moment. I scoop up what I need and make sure not to leave any traces of suspicious activity behind in his office. Then I hurry to my room and start scanning all the crime scene photos. I zoom in and sure enough, that's what I thought it was. A shoe with a drawn-on heart, on inscribed with my name.
It's lunchtime, and Lilly and I are cuddled together on a bench. I kiss her on the forehead and gaze into her eyes. "Out of all the guys you could have picked, why me?" She strokes my cheek and replies, "Because you're the only one who'd ever ask me that." I whisper into her ear, "How can I make sure you'll never leave me?" She promptly takes out a pen and doodles on her shoe. "Okay, how about this? As long as it says 'Logan' on here, I shall be yours." I murmur in jest, "Too bad you've got other pairs." She just grins at me. "Yes, but this one's my favorite."
I gradually shake off my reverie and look up the number for Action News. I pick up the phone and dial it in. "Hi, I'm a journalism student from Neptune High doing a follow-up story on Abel Koontz. I'm wondering if you could send me a copy of the piece you did on him a couple days ago." They buy it hook, line and sinker.
Duncan's heading inside the school and I catch up to him. "Hey," I say to him. “Can I ask you for kind of a weird favor?” He raises an eyebrow at me. “Depends on how weird.” I reply, “Our doc just retired to Death Valley. Sounds like a metaphor, but it’s not. To make a long story short, we need a new general practitioner. Can I get the name of yours?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Sure, Al Levine. He’s in the book.” I thank him and he goes, “No problem. He’s a little... expensive though.” I tell him we’ve got insurance. There’s an awkward pause and we go on our separate ways. It’ll be worth the cost in order to find out what mystery illness he has.
I practically bump into Veronica on my way in. It’s as if she’s been lying in wait for me. She carefully glances around and asks, “So has there been any news?” I tell her that I’ve put a notice on her mom’s account so that one of my contacts will text me if there’s appears to be any activity. Then I comment on how the alleged witness will be giving a statement at the sheriff’s department tomorrow. She mutters under her breath, “Opportunistic hag.” I also mention to her that I’ll be dropping by to see if I can dig up some more details. She looks up at this. “Well, I’m going with you.” I’m about to refuse, when I see her lip tremble. “Please, Logan. I’ll know if she’s lying. You won’t.” I give up and say, ”Fine. Meet me after school.”
We’re sitting in the waiting room and Veronica’s fidgeting all over the place. I look over and give her a smirk. “You know what, we should do this more often.” She just glares at me. Finally, I recognize our target stepping out of the sheriff’s office. Veronica immediately leaps to her feet. I hand her an an earpiece. “Relax, I’ve got it covered. She raises an eyebrow as she resumes her seat. “Gadgets, Logan? Didn’t know you were so kinky.” I ignore her and focus on White Trash Walking, who’s getting intercepted in the corridor as planned. “Cliff McCormack from World New Weekly. My boss is very interested in your story.” She snaps her gum and asks, “So are we talking exclusive or what? I’m getting lotsa offers here.” He assures her, “Definitely an exclusive.” She nods her head in satisfaction. “Okay, I’m listening.” He goes, “What can you tell us? Did she look intoxicated, drugged up, bruised?” She replies, “If that’s what you want.” Veronica practically knocks the chair over in her haste to confront the so-called witness. “Let me guess, you got rejected by Springer so you decided to make up lies about my mom instead?” I’m forced to physically restrain her. She screams at the woman’s retreating back, “I’m sure it’s been a struggle for you to make ends meet. What with the trailer payments and high cost of Spam these days!” I wait until she’s calmed down before releasing her. Then I mutter my thanks to Cliff. “You’re the best, man.” He shrugs on his way out. “If by best, you mean willing. You owe me one, sport.” I turn to Veronica, who’s gingerly rubbing her wrists. “Why did you do that? I could have taken her.” I grin at her. “Yeah, I know that. But she wouldn’t have been worth the effort.” She mulls on my words and cracks a smile. “Okay, you’re right.” I pretend to punch her on the arm while holding open the door. “After you, Champ.” She hits me back for real. “And don’t you forget it!”
I finally arrive home. Dad looks up from his paper and gestures towards the counter. “Package for you from the local station?” I play it off casually. “Yeah, it’s for my project. Compare-and-contrast video footage to print media.” I pick it up and head for my room. Then I halt in my tracks and decide to come clean instead. “Okay, I’m lying and you know it. I don’t want it to be like this anymore.” Dad simply raises his eyebrow. “Like what?” I give him a glare. “Our own little game of Spy vs. Spy, that’s what. So I was in the safe this morning. And you’re still investigating Lilly’s murder.” He replies evenly, “I was. I’m not anymore.” I rake my hands through my hair in frustration. “Why not? We’re running out of time here, Dad!” He gets up and paces around. “I used to think that solving the case was the key to everything. My reputation gets restored, your mom comes home and you go back to being a normal teenager.” I roll my eyes at him. “What are you waiting for? Let’s do it!” He just shakes his head. “I believe that we should make the most of what we have here and now. If that means being able to spend quality time with my son, so be it.” The VCR’s already on so I rip the wrapping off my tape and pop it in.”You need to see this.” I fast-forward to where Lamb displays Lilly’s shoes and hit pause. “And here’s some blow-ups of her room the night she died.” I take the printouts out of my backpack and hand them over. He examines them carefully and mutters, “So how’d that end up on Abel Koontz’s houseboat?” I simply say, “Good question.”
It’s the next day, and I’m scheduling an appointment with Duncan’s physician. I hang up the phone and see Veronica standing in the corner with a bemused smile on her face. “I’m don’t know what you’ve got, but I’ll bet it can be taken care of with Penicillin.” I simply raise an eyebrow. “Can’t say I was expecting you. I’d have brought out the lace doilies and potpourri.“ She looks around disdainfully. “This is why I usually avoid buildings constructed with papier mache.” I give her a smirk. “So THAT’S why you haven’t visited me before.” She snorts delicately and tosses a tabloid onto my desk. “Listen, there’s a woman in there who saw my mother get out of her car and into a van with a mysterious stranger.” I point out there’s also a jungle tribe that apparently worships Donald Trump’s hair. Her eyes go round and she lets out a gasp. “But the girl with the pig arm can still bowl, right?” I tell her it’s better if she doesn’t get her hopes up. She puts her hands on her hips. “I’m not paying you to worry about my hopes, I’m paying you to follow leads!” I prop my feet up on the table and watch her squirm. “I’m actually getting paid, huh?” She just glares at me. “I’m not expecting any favors here, it’s a simple business transaction.” I put my hands behind my head and grin. “So that's a no on the friendship bracelets then? Guess I'd better stop braiding.” She retorts, “The woman said Mom was laughing and having fun. So go do whatever and track her down!” I read aloud from the article. “Sandra Bolan of Sunset Springs. How am I ever going to locate her?” I dial 411 and whisper, “This is all going on your bill.” She rolls her eyes in response. I connect through and she picks up on the first ring. “Hi, Sandy? This is Logan of the National Instigator. I had a few follow-up questions on your Lynn Echolls story. Could we maybe do this in person?” She offers up Tuesday and I reply that it’s no good, that’s the paper’s work night. Veronica hisses in my ear, “What do you think you’re doing?” I wink surreptitiously. ”Say, any chance you’re available right now?” We arrange to meet at a local club.
She’s easy to spot, frumpy housewife looking like a fish out of water. We make a little small talk and I go, “So I’m not sure how much you were paid for the last one...” She makes a modest gesture with her hands. “Oh no, I wasn’t paid. I simply wanted people to know the truth, what with that woman lying on every talk show.” I ask her if she could remember anything else, such as vehicle model or a license plate? She immediately clutches the pearls around her neck. “Honestly, I was just so excited to see Lynn. I thought they were shooting a movie or something!” I inquire how she’d recognized the subject in question. She gushes, “I’d seen her once before at the premiere of Delta Bombers. She and Aaron made such a striking couple on the red carpet. My goodness, I must have seen that movie a hundred times!” I pretend to jot it down in my notepad. “Right, a hundred times?” She pulls a humongous binder out of her purse and chirps, “I can check if you’d like!” I decide to move on to van’s description instead. “In the interview, you said it was blue. Is that correct?” Her eyes practically glaze over. “Yes, it was the exact same one that was used in her first movie. She met her husband while filming The Pursuit of Happiness, you know. They were so young then. I don’t know why anyone could ever think she’d kill herself, she is truly the luckiest woman in the world.” I see Veronica get up from a nearby table and excuse myself. She’s almost at the exit when I catch her by the arm. Adamantly refusing to face me, she immediately goes still instead. “If you’re trying to say ‘I told you so’, don’t bother.” I tell her I probably would have done the same thing, if it were my mother. Something between a laugh and a sob escapes her throat. “Would you now? Really?” Then she dashes up the stairs, practically running into Weevil on his way in. He smirks at me. “Busy making pretty girls cry, huh? How’d you do it this time, Mars?” I give him a shrug. “By destroying the last ounce of hope she had of her mom still being alive, that’s all.” Not even his horrified look can cheer me up.
I head over to Dr. Levine's office. These kind of guys must get off on leaving people butt-naked in their rooms with the AC going full-blast and denying official requests to view patients' medical histories. Which means I've gotta resort to using methods the insurance companies probably won't appreciate. So after my little "check-up", I sneak into a supply closet and wait until they've all left. Then I quickly find Duncan's file and make a few Xeroxes. You know, I'd say I'm generally pretty cool with coincidence. But when Abel Koontz turns out to share a doctor with the Kanes, I simply can't ignore that. Even if it means getting caught. I return to the copier, shedding clothes as it scans (no, it's not what you think). Then I grab a nearby dressing gown and hastily don it. Sure enough, I can hear the cleaning lady's whistling. I take a deep breath and wander out into the hall. "Hey, how much longer is this going to take? I've been sitting here for like, an hour now." She babbles an apology and unlocks the front door for me. Yahtzee.
Duncan is currently taking Oxcarbazepine, which apparently treats type IV epilepsy. Symptoms include hysterical, violent, emotional fits that can't be controlled and are often accompanied by complete blackouts and loss of memory. Well damn, Donut. And it turns out Koontz is dying from stomach cancer. This just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?
I'm at school, idly studying the trophy case when Weevil saunters up to me. "If you're looking for mine, it's back by auto shop." I raise my eyebrow at him. "For what, a lube job? Or can you medal in stealing hubcaps?" He lets out a snort. "Is this 1970? Rims, man." I give him a smirk. "So you got an award for a rim job, huh?" He shakes his head in and holds up his hands. "Look, I've got some information you might want." I grin and ask, "Do I have to call you DeepThroat?" He says impatiently, "Do you want to hear this or not? This freshman's been shooting off his mouth that he'd captured Lynn Echolls' last minutes and he's gonna make millions." I tell Weevil to bring him to the AV room for interrogation while I go make a call.
Veronica finally shows up, yawning. "Fine, I'm here. Why'd you page?" I lead her by the arm to where Weevil's busy menacing a scrawny, frightened kid. "Start spilling," I say. He stammers, "Me and my friends were out filming by the bay. We were making this war movie, 'Storm on the Beach'. It's just on high-def, but it's pretty cool. It's these two brothers who get sent to war and..." I poke him in the chest. "Don't care. Point?" He gives me an indignant look. "We were editing it together when we noticed something." He cues up something on the PC. It's a bunch of guys chasing after each other with SuperSoakers, bad dubbing and worse dialogue. He asks eagerly, "Did you see it?" Veronica simply rolls her eyes. "Yes, it sucks. And?" I instruct him to rewind and play it frame-by-frame. He squeaks, "There it is! On the right-hand side!" There's the image of a body slowly falling into the ocean. He whispers, "It's time-stamped 4:37 PM. Exactly when she was supposed to have..." I immediately cut him off. "Shut up. This footage will never make it out into public consumption, you hear me?" Weevil pipes up, "You'd better listen to him. Because if you don't, your next feature will be a snuff film. And guess who'll star in it?" I remove the disc and snap it in two as the other two exit the room. Then I turn to Veronica, who's still standing there in shock. For lack of anything better to say, I tell her I'm sorry. She gives me an overbright smile. "Yeah, well so am I." I'm not sure whether that's an apology or her state of mind.
Just as she walks out, my cell goes off. I flip it open and stare at the display. It's from the bank. I run after Veronica and catch up to her in the parking lot. "Your mom's platinum just received a charge." She grips my shoulders, hard. "And you're completely sure about this, right?" I simply nod my head. She gets into her car and starts the ignition. "I want no expenses spared. Whatever it takes." She gives me a pleading look. "Will you find her for me, Logan?" I tell her I'll do as much as I can. She smiles gratefully at me and kicks it into reverse. I grin as she peels out of here, burning rubber. Guess me and her aren't so different after all. We're both searching for answers to questions possibly better left unasked.